At the end of the year, I always open a few 10-year-old California Cabernet Sauvignons for an impromptu retrospective. The decade mark is a milepost for California Cabernets, and the first real test of whether a vintage is a keeper or a drinker. The 1999s hold special meaning for me since my son was born that year, so my cellar is well-stocked. (Particularly since 1999 Bordeaux lacked as much promise for long-term aging, although I have a magnum of Latour for good measure.)
My colleague James Laube rated the vintage a classic for Napa Cabernet when the wines were released, and his recent retrospective tasting only confirmed it. A Bordeaux-style blend, the Phelps Insignia is typically among my favorite Cabernets after 10 years, and when I opened a bottle of the 1999 over the holidays, I wasn’t disappointed. The wine was still dense and complex, with accents of lively blackberry and cedar. It was ready to drink but had several years of great drinking ahead. I rated it 94 points, non-blind.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the blind-tasting reviews and get the current auction price for Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley 1999 (94 on release, 91 in retrospective tasting; $125 on release).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated California Cabernet Sauvignon.